Saturday, July 30, 2011

Human Black Box: Things Go Sideways (pt 4)

At this point in their journey, Chloe (Olympian morph) and her allies, Ahmed (one-armed synth morph), Hotaru (sylph morph) and her father, Sava (infomorph, uploaded into a ghostrider module and currently acting as his daughter's muse), have managed to escape from the resleeving facility and are making their way east right now. The journey isn't a long one - just shy of 5 hours - but they would be so lucky if they could make that time...

Follow their journey here, courtesy of MapQuest:

Part 1, 2, and 3 can be found there, there, and there, respectively.

They'd turned off onto Highway 40 and followed the long and winding road. Ahmed didn't spare anything on the gas, as the massive vehicle rolled over debris, under broken overpasses, and occasionally through large collections of debris, all of it as if it wasn't even there. As he veered off the road to avoid a large and steep crater and tore through a collection of dead and blackened trees in the large tank-like vehicle, the splintered wood flying in all directions before he veered back onto the road, Chloe realized why they called them "Crash" vehicles.

She held on to Hotaru for the majority of the journey down Highway 40, as the crash truck/van/thing with six wheels that could go wherever it wanted continued to plow through the road. She winced when it slammed into several blackened parked cars, rolling over one and crushing it like a monster truck.

"Do you even know where you're going?" Chloe asked.

Ahmed: [My muse tells me that the fastest way to get from here to where we want to be at is to follow this highway. Eventually it'll link up with an Interstate and, assuming it's still in some kind of shape, we'll take that out there.]

Chloe leaned her head back, looking over at Hotaru.

Her nausea had started to subside just a little bit. She got the impression she should be hungry but she wasn't; the migraine and the nausea combine had stolen her appetite. She smiled at the smaller woman.

"Can you talk yet?"

Hotaru opened her mouth and tried to form words and syllables, but what came out made her sound as if she was hearing-impaired. She quickly shut her mouth, shaking her head.

"I hope that's not a permanent thing."

Sava: [Hotaru can talk to you with Mesh assistance.]

"You know, I've been meaning to ask how you do that," Chloe said. "You've all be talking to me like that but I haven't figure out how to talk to you that way. I probably sound like I'm nuts; I'm carrying out a conversation with myself because none of you are good enough to talk to me."

Blue: [It isn't complicated, Chloe. Let me open up the program for you. You just have to think about what you want to say, and you can send it that way.]

"So... internet assisted telepathy."

Blue: [Basically.]

Chloe watched as Blue opened up the program, and she frowned.

Chloe: [Am I doing this right?]

Ahmed: [We heard. Congratulations, you figured out how to talk over the Mesh. Now be careful, because the last thing we want is to know all of your thoughts.]

"It doesn't even work like that," Chloe said. "I have to think it like I'm going to say it for it to work. If I think something I'm not going to say, then it won't send. I helps that I mouth it out with my mouth shut, like I'm actually saying it but not."

Sava: [When you get good enough, you can do it without having to do that. Hotaru, sweetie, why don't you give it a try?]

Hotaru: [I... I... Hi?]

Chloe smiled, sitting back.

Chloe: [Okay, so I know how to do this now. This is pretty cool, actually. How do I set it so that it's a private chat session?]

She looked back ahead as the vehicle tore over a twisted road sign, the blasted remains of Interstate 40 rising up in the distance. It loomed - dark and foreboding. A few minutes before it had been hailing; the hail had let up, and now it was, according to the dash instruments, bone dry outside with a humidity of 10%. As they approached Interstate 40, thought, the humidity spiked from 10% to 80%; it was accompanied by a severe change in the pressure and the loud roar of thunder.

Blue: [I'll show you how later, when we're not on the run and need to pay full attention to what's going on around us.]

Chloe was distracted with the instruments. "Uh... wow. The weather is weird, isn't it?"

Ahmed: [You have no idea. Listen to this - the major reason Earth is as fucked up as it is now? It's our fault. In the lead up to the Fall, we were in the middle of ecopocalypse; radical and extreme weather was the norm. The ice caps had almost completely melted; and things were all sorts of messed up down here. Well, to try and stave off the problem, in the years before the Fall, they let loose nanites in the air that would change the molecular make up of the cloud structure, causing the weather to change suddenly, and creating rain where there needed to be rain. Sounds like a good idea, right? When the Fall hit, the TITANs took that good idea and made it bad. Really bad. They turned loose their own version of weather controlling nanites that didn't flush from the atmosphere, and cooked up all sorts of nasty storms. That was complicated by localized nuclear exchanges - after all, the TITANs did achieve full sapience in the middle of World War III and kick-started a hard singularity in the middle of that war - and the preexisting climate issues all rolled into it. Earth's climate today is something totally unpredictable and an absolute mess - jumps like that aren't unusual. In fact, I think we're about ready to see some of that extreme weather they were warning me about in the briefing a few weeks ago.]

They turned off onto the Interstate, slamming into the median and driving through it for a few meters before getting right on the road again, and heading north west. The clouds grew darker, and the pressure continued to drop, until it started to rain.

Chloe felt her ears pop.

The raindrops were sporadic and hit hard; almost like they were a sleet mix. As they continued westward, along the path dotted with dead and blackened trees, however, the rain picked up. It hit harder, and the rain/sleet mix started thundering down on the car. Just ahead a lightning bolt slammed down on the road, and the roar of thunder nearly deafened her. She was blinded for a second, but so was Ahmed, and that second was all it took for him to veer off of the road and slam into the median age, the vehicle dragging to a stop.

Ahmed: [Fuck it all, I can't drive with one arm in this weather.]

Sava: [I have a suggestion. Does this vehicle come with a cyberbrain in it?]

Ahmed: [I believe so. I'm not downloading myself inside of a vehicle, though.]

Sava: [No, you can download me into it. I'll control it.]

"You can do that?" Chloe asked, looking at Ahmed.

Ahmed: [If it comes with a cyberbrain, you can download yourself into it. The only difference between a synthmorph and a vehicle is semantics.]

"How do we do that?"

Ahmed: [I don't have the first fucking clue.]

Another loud clap of thunder rang out, as Chloe sighed. "Here, I'll drive. You can hang out over there. I've got two arms."

Ahmed: [I'll see if I can't find her ghostrider module. Those things aren't supposed to be installed deep, and hopefully it isn't anywhere near her stack.]

Hotaru looked over at Chloe, as Chloe ran her hands through the younger woman's hair and smiled.

"It'll be alright."

She threw the vehicle into gear, looking around at all of the instruments, trying to figure out what went where.

Ahmed: [Push this button, get it started again, and then pull this gear. You won't get it into gear unless you start it up first. Once you've got it started, there's the gas, there's the wheel, it steers which ever way you turn it.]

The rain was thundering down, hard and fast at a blinding rate on the vehicle.

"What about the brakes?"

Ahmed: [You're driving an 8 ton vacuum sealed vehicle with a reinforced shell and heavy ceramic armor. You don't need brakes. If you can't run over it or go through it, you'll see it in time to go around it.]

Chloe smiled and nodded. "Okay, point taken."

She pressed the button and the engine came to life, and she grabbed the gear while holding the wheel and thrust the shifter forward, slamming on the gas. It was sudden and everyone was pinned back into their seat as the inertia evened out and the massive tank of a vehicle was back on the road. Chloe couldn't see where she was going. It was raining so hard and so furiously she was afraid of running across a flooded riverbed or something. The ground had been so dry earlier; this was not going to help things. She continued forward, as the vehicle approached an overpass. She hoped that the roads would be strong enough to support them, but in case they weren't, she pushed down harder on the gas pedal, the vehicle picking up speed to a maximum of 80mph.

They went over the overpass without much difficulty, although Chloe was almost certain she heard it groan. The rain was still falling at a blinding rate, and she missed the road branching out into four different directions. She continued on the main road, however, as they slammed into, and through, the overpass that had spanned over the two roads. She wanted to look away but she forced herself not to, as the huge hunks of road were pushed out of the way, the vehicle barely slowed down.

Once they were past that, 40 began a wide sweep into rolling mountains that had been dotted with pines. The rain was lightening up, but only just barely. Still, any was better than none at all.

Ahmed: [Found it. It's right... here]

She looked over at Ahmed as he tapped Hotaru's head.

Ahmed: [Bastard put it in here.]

Sava: [You know, I am connected to the Mesh. In theory, I should be able to send myself via some medium to the cyberbrain of the vehicle and download myself.]

Ahmed scratched his robot head with his one working hand curiously.

Ahmed: [I've never heard that done before. And damn it. I have phantom limb pains.]

Chloe thought about asking how a robot could have phantom limb syndrome, but decided otherwise. She instead focused on the task at hand, as they tried to figure out how they were going to get Sava from the ghostrider module into the vehicle without cracking Hotaru's skull open. At this rate, she thought, they'd finally figure out how to do it as they were pulling up the air strip at Groom Lake.

Sava: [Why don't we try with the ego bridge?]

Ahmed: [Because I don't know how to use one of those, and I don't know where the cyberbrain for this thing is at. I'd have to bust her head open to ...]

"No!" Hotaru screamed, clinging to Chloe. The sudden application of weight almost made Chloe swerve off the road, but she recovered quickly, heaving a heavy sigh.

"Damn it, Hotaru. Don't do that."

Hotaru held onto Chloe, but wasn't leaning back.

Ahmed: [C'mon. I know we don't have the best relationship here, but I'm not going to crack your skull just to get at your old man. It'd be too messy.]

Blue: [Chloe, you can let go of the wheel.]

Chloe: [What? Why?]

Blue: [Because I contacted the AGI who drives the vehicle. They were busy with a simulspace game, but they're paying attention now and they have control.]

Chloe let go of the wheel as the vehicle righted itself. She leaned back as the AGI took control.

Ahmed: [Did you get a name?]

Blue: [It's just a nondescript AGI. Why, did you think it would be someone you knew?]

Ahmed: [Maybe.]

Chloe leaned over and wrapped an arm around Hotaru, pulling her closer. Hotaru blushed faintly - it was barely noticeable on her red skin - as the rain slowly lightened.

When the rain looked like it was going to clear out, the sky had taken on a unnatural, unsettling green hue. Chloe could feel the hair on her nape rise and goosebumps form on her back near the base of her spine, as she looked over and watched the first steps of a tornado form. It formed quickly, touching down and tearing across the ground, rapidly growing in size.

Chloe: [Uh... not good.]

She looked over as another tornado touched down on the other side of the highway, and then ahead as yet another touched down, right in their way. The AGI didn't stop; they drove right through the funnel, tearing out the other side as the funnel cloud picked up speed. A lightning bolt reached out from the sky as they cleared a place that had been Belmont. to the north of them and barreling down fast was quite possibly the largest tornado she'd ever seen - it was easily a half-mile of nothing but black, and roared; oh that roar. It caused the ground to tremble under it. She could feel it pushing at the vehicle, threatening to lift it off of the ground.

Hotaru screamed as they drove away from the massive wall of wind, several more funnels reaching down from the sky. There were no fewer than twenty tornadoes in all, dancing around them, ranging in size from a few feet to half mile monsters that ripped up the ground. Chloe took Hotaru and instinctively climbed into the back, crouching there as they went through another one of the smaller funnel clouds, punching through it like it wasn't even there.

Something slammed, hard, into the side of the vehicle. It shook the vehicle. Then something crashed into the windshield. The windshield was reinforced, but whatever it was that hit the windshield created a spider's web of cracks and a massive crater. There was more thunder and lightning, and the rain started to pick up, as one of the tornadoes appeared to maneuver onto the highway behind them.

Chloe looked up and spotted it through the back window.

"That... that's not chasing us. Tell me that's not chasing us."

Ahmed: [It's not chasing us. Note that even though I told you that, it won't stop it from chasing us.]

"How the fuck does a tornado chase someone!?"

Sava: [Nanites? TITAN nanites?]

Ahmed: [Those fuckers were crazy. I'm telling you, they were crazy.]

Chloe stopped, and looked back at the funnel cloud. "Smart tornadoes?"

Chloe: [It's intelligent? How... I... it's a smart tornado!]

"Where's our AGI?" Ahmed demanded.

Blue: [Flooring it. There's no way we can go any faster.]

Something else slammed into the side of the vehicle. The tornado continued its haphazard maneuver across the road, keeping near them but not able to keep up. Another tornado closed in, taking off a hunk of the road. That massive half-mile monster had maneuvered itself so that it was following them, tearing up the road as it did so.

Ahmed: [Oh fuck me. They never said the weather was intelligent!]

Chloe felt that rising nausea again, as the AGI piloting the truck jumped off one of the roads, went over the median, and onto the other road. It crashed through the concrete barrier, as the thermodynamics behind the first tornado that started chasing them collapsed, leaving the tornado to slowly and wistfully vanish. That was one down - several more to go.

They shot past the remains of an old post office just off the side of the road, the tornado closest to them off the road ripping into it and destroying it.

Sava: [The tornado itself isn't intelligent. It's the nanite swarm that's directing it. Unfortunately, it seems to me like the nanites have some degree of sapience - or they're just programmed to attack whatever moves.]

In the meanwhile, it'd started to snow. And snow heavily.

Ahmed: [Any idea what we can use on them?]

Sava: [Nanites are generally vulnerable to electromagnetism; they're too small to be shielded unless they're in someone's body.]

"So we need a downed power line. Tornadoes were always downing power lines. It'd just happen to be our luck that we ended up with intelligent tornadoes on the one planet that doesn't have a functioning power grid anymore."

Chloe scowled, watching as the snow started to accumulate. The water that rushed down the hills in the form of mudslides had already started to freeze, and the temperature was dropping steeply. She watched as the smaller of the tornadoes started to vanish; the nanites able to direct the wind but not the thermodynamic phenomena creating them. It left just them and that half-mile monstrosity, but that was unable to keep up with them. Eventually, as they left the mountains and went under the Sherman Forest Road, the tornado was unable to keep up with them, and started to shrink. The nanites either lost control or they lost power, because the tornado veered suddenly, clearly being driven by the wind now, and went off in its own direction - much smaller than it had been.

"I don't want to be here anymore," Chloe said, sitting up. "Antares wasn't kidding. Everything is trying to kill you. Even the fucking weather."

She could feel the vehicle slowing down.

"What's going on?" She asked, standing up and looking over the driver's seat.

Ahmed: [Snow. Lots of it. It's slowing down the vehicle.]

"This just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?"

Blue: [We can plow through it - I hope - but the rate that the temperature is dropping and the accumulation of all this snow means that we probably won't stand a chance once it really starts piling up. Not to mention it's near white out conditions.]


She climbed into the front seat, looking over to the north. A large building rose up just off of one of the many roads that ran across the interstate.

"Get off here, and make for the building," she said. "The last thing I want is to get snowed in here. I'd rather be snowed inside of a building."

Ahmed: [Did you forget about the last building we were in?]

"Half-mile intelligent tornado that is dead set on killing us," she said, pointing back the way they'd came. "We're safer underground. The building might have a basement."

Ahmed: [Or it might have more wonderful TITAN surprises.]

"I'm willing to take that chance. I can shoot a headhunter or one of those warbots. I can't shoot a goddamn tornado."

Hotaru: [I... I agree with her. I think we'd be safer out of here.]

Chloe watched as the AGI steered the vehicle off the road, and towards the towering structure. It went over the edge and slammed down on the snowy dirt, trailblazing a path through the snow and towards the building. It went over a road, then looped around, almost got bogged in the snow, and then looped around again, before pulling up into the parking lot.

Chloe grabbed Hotaru and the gun, kicking the back door open and sliding out into the snow. It felt cold against her - she could only imagine how cold it felt on Hotaru, who still hadn't found any clothing beyond the blanket she wore. Her face lit up and she shivered, as Ahmed jumped out, sank into the snow, and then made for the large, glass double doors at a slogging pace. It was some kind of resort.

The doors slammed shut and the lights remained on as the trio worked their way through the snow up the stairs, towards the shattered glass double doors.

Ahmed stepped in first, looking around.

Ahmed: [Pick her up and carry her. There's glass everywhere in here.]

Hotaru: [I can't feel my lower body.]

Chloe picked up Hotaru and cradled her, as she stepped through the broken glass door and into the lobby of the resort, looking around. It was dead silent, save for her, Ahmed, and Hotaru.

Chloe: [I don't think anyone's home. Does this mean we can check into the suites?]

Ahmed: [I do believe it does.]

She smiled faintly. As long as the suites still worked, there might be some benefit to being in a post-apocalyptic world after all.

Edited: Thanks, Brin! :)


  1. [Hotaru can talk to you with Mesh assistance]

    Missing a period.

    She continued froward


    she pushed down harder on the gas peddle


    The rain was lightning up

    Lightening, although it is somewhat fitting.

    She looked over at Ahmed as he tapped her head.

    Tapped Hotaru's head. Otherwise the “her” defaults to Chloe, the last person to be referred to with feminine pronouns.

    via some medium to cyberbrain of the vehicle

    The cyberbrain.

    Chloe though about asking


    as the tried to figure out


    Chloe could feel the hair on her nap rise


    she looked over and watch the first steps of a tornado form


    to the north of them and barreling down fast

    “To” is the first word of a sentence and should be capitalised.

    was quiet possibly the largest tornado

    You've mixed up “quiet” and “quite” again.

    ranging in size from a feet

    A few feet, I'm guessing. I suppose it could be “a foot”, but that seems a bit small.

    punching through the it like it wasn't even there

    Unnecessary “the”.



    How the fuck does a tornado chase someone!

    Question mark as well as exclamation point.

    The tornado continued it's haphazard maneuver


    programmed to attack whatever movies.


    It left just them and that half-mile monstrosity, but that was unable to keep up with them. Eventually, as they left the mountains and went under the Sherman Forest Road, the tornado was unable to keep up with them, and started to shrink

    One of those “unable to keep up with them” clauses is redundant.

    the last thing I want is to get snowed in here

    “The” should be capitalised.

    dead set on killing us," She said, pointing back

    “She” shouldn't be.


    Future!hellhole!Earth, where even the weather is out to kill you. Is there something special about our protagonists, or do Earth's myriad baddies just kill everyone on principle? (Probably spoily to answer that. I'm merely wondering out loud.)

  2. For the record, the nanite-directed tornadoes are not canon. That's something I cooked up, reasoning that if a nanite swarm could seed a cloud for rain and form and control cloud movements (which is canon), it could probably do the same for a tornado. Nanites are small enough that they aren't effected by windsheer speeds, thus they wouldn't be hurt at all by the tornado, unless a rock or something clobbered them. But even then, TITAN nanites are stronger than regular, because they're self-replicating von Newman machines and don't require a hive.

    You've meet TITAN nanites before, too. The tentacle from the first part that appeared out of nowhere (I've used that trick against my players when I run EP - they do *not* like it) and cut down the headhunter was a nanoswarm that suddenly formed into a weapon. I always treat nanites as being less than a character or entity and more a force of uncontrolled nature; partially because they control nature in some cases.

    Of course, TITAN nanites and nanite-controlled/directed tornadoes are child's play compared to what calls the remains Las Vegas home.